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									Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy   March 2002




Education UK
Developing the UK’s International
Education Agent Network


Prepared by:

Jean Krasocki
Education Consultant




Promotions and Partnerships (ECS), The British Council                      1
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                     March 2002



Contents
1. Introduction                                                                  3

    1.1       Aims and objectives                                                3
    1.2       Methodology                                                        3

2. Background                                                                    3

    2.1       Definition                                                         3
    2.2       The role of agents                                                 3
    2.3       Financial arrangements                                             4

3   Market reviews – summary of findings                                         4

    3.1       Overall position and legal framework                               4
    3.2       Current financial arrangements                                     5
    3.3       Alternative ‘agents’ and market access routes                      5
    3.4       Competitor country analysis                                        6

4   Conclusions and recommendations                                              6

    4.1       Building agent capacity                                            6
    4.2       Encouraging UK institutions to make more effective use of agents   9
    4.3       Country focus                                                      10
    4.4       Existing British Council placement scheme                          11
    4.5       Financing agent support services                                   11


Appendices

Appendix I        Menu of Agent Services
Appendix II       Agent Market Review: China
Appendix III      Agent Market Review: India
Appendix IV       Agent Market Review: Japan




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1        Introduction

1.1           Aims and objectives

This report, commissioned by the Education Counselling Service of the British Council,
examines the role of education agents in the recruitment of international students to the UK
and considers ways in which their use might be extended. Specifically the objectives are to:

•     identify how the agent networks need to be developed as a key part of the Education UK
      marketing brand campaign taking into account the likely impact of possible e-recruitment
      developments;
•     identify the role of the British Council in developing the networks;
•     develop flexible models for working effectively with agents which can be used in key
      countries for the benefit of UK recruitment in all sectors.

1.2           Methodology

The fieldwork for this report was carried out in 2001. It included interviews in the UK with
education providers representing all sectors, UK-based Council staff, education consultants
and other industry contacts. Further information was obtained from contacts abroad, desk
research and a questionnaire sent to all ECS supported and other selected overseas Council
offices. In addition in-depth agents market reviews were undertaken in China, India and
Japan. Reports on the role of agents in each of these three countries are contained in the
country market reviews attached as Appendices II, III and VI respectively.


2        Background

2.1           Definition

In this report an education agent is defined as an individual, company or other organisation
providing services on a commercial basis to help students and their parents gain places on
study programmes overseas. Agents use a range of different titles to describe themselves,
including student advisor, education consultant and representative. Most fall into one of three
broad categories:

•     education specialists who place students on behalf of one or more institutions;
•     education specialists who place students but with no ties to any particular institution;
•     non-education specialists, for example travel agents and publishers, who may offer
      overseas education placement services as a subsidiary activity.

Other individuals may work as education agents, or in a similar capacity, including alumni,
parents and overseas-based staff running institutional in-country offices.

2.2           The role of agents

Agents have only a limited role in raising general interest in study abroad but they play a very
important role as intermediaries helping to convert interest from students, particularly younger
students (and their parents), into actual placements in institutions abroad. As such, agents are
an important means of increasing access to overseas education markets.

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In many countries students and parents use agents to arrange study abroad because they lack
knowledge and understanding of overseas education systems. Even where students or their
parents find suitable placements on their own, they often lack the confidence or time to
complete the necessary formalities, especially visa application procedures, without help and
choose to pay for assistance from an agent. In countries where many customers have limited
English language skills, agents have an even more important role since they offer information
and advice in the customers’ own language. In some cases agents are valued for the follow-up
services they provide during the period of study abroad, for example liaison between parents
and institutions, finding guardians and emergency support. Many agents also provide pre-
departure briefings on behalf of institutions.

For institutions, use of reputable agents offers a cost-effective means of increasing outreach,
especially in larger overseas markets. Where direct recruitment activities by overseas
institutions are tightly controlled or limited, as in China for example, the value of a reputable
agent is even more apparent.

2.3           Financial arrangements

The services agents provide to students may be paid for by the students themselves (their
parents) or the overseas provider of the study programmes or both. Most agents representing
institutions work on a commission basis and are paid an agreed percentage of the tuition fee
received from each successfully placed student. The institution may also pay a retainer and/or
contribute to the cost of promotional work undertaken by the agent on their behalf. Service
fees collected from students vary enormously from a small fixed fee levied to deter non-
serious customers to significant sums which cover a wide range of services embracing help to
secure the education placement as well as such things as visa application assistance and the
making of travel arrangements.


3        Market reviews – summary of findings

3.1           Overall position and legal framework

In many countries there is huge variation in the quality and effectiveness of agents. This is
especially the case in the less mature markets. In most countries there is no government or
official control over agents and a free-for-all situation prevails. Even where an agents
association exists, the element of self-regulation is often weak.

Agents generally have a poor knowledge of UK education and this significantly limits UK
growth in many markets. UK institutions find it hard to identify reliable agents with whom
they would feel comfortable working. Similarly agents find it hard to link with UK
institutional clients, or enough of them. Direct overtures made by agents to institutions are
mostly ignored. Most of the successful arrangements have resulted from introductions made
by key contacts.

To be effective, agents need support from their institutional clients in terms of staff training,
the provision of promotional materials, reasonable response times to applications/enquiries as
well as participation in agent promotional events, presentations and interviews. Few UK
institutions provide support to agents at the level needed to establish a successful relationship,
although this does vary between the different education sectors.

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3.2           Current financial arrangements

Agents typically charge students (parents) service fees in addition to collecting commissions.
Fees are market driven, high in less mature markets and reduce as the market gets more
competitive. In some cases the services provided by agents are financed entirely by fees paid
by students and their parents. This is normally the case where agents assist with applications
made to top-ranking universities in the US and the UK.

With some exceptions, commission rates paid by UK institutions vary little between source
countries. UK HE providers generally pay 10% of the first year fee with rates offered by
boarding schools, private language schools and FE colleges varying between 10% and 20%
depending on the course. There is a growing trend in some countries for additional
commission payments to be paid in respect of continuing students. Commission rates paid by
Australian institutions are generally slightly higher than UK levels.

UK institutions (especially universities and further education colleges) compare unfavourably
with their competitor country counterparts because of the way commission payments are
made, particularly on the grounds of slow payment. There is also another aspect of current
UK financial practice that undermines agent relationships in two of the countries visited. In
all competitor countries students are required to pay substantial deposits when they accept a
place and in Australia it is also a pre-condition of visa issue. This means that should a student
fail to take up an accepted place, (for reasons other than visa rejection) funds are still available
to cover administrative expenses, including agents’ commission. However, few UK
universities and public sector FE colleges collect deposits from students. In addition, since
commission payments are usually withheld by UK institutions until student fees have been
paid, the agent is required to shoulder most of the financial risk of student no-shows in the
UK.

3.3           Alternative ‘agents’ and market access routes

In some countries, education institutions (universities, colleges and schools) are keen to
develop agency-type arrangements with overseas partners in order to provide progression
routes and credit transfer to courses abroad or study abroad experience for their students. In
effect, the institutions recruit for their overseas partners from among their own student bodies
and sometimes more broadly. As an incentive the overseas partner sets aside funds,
equivalent to the commission payments it would have paid to a commercial agent, for use by
the institution. These funds are used in a number of ways, including staff development, and
the provision of student scholarships or bursaries. For example, one university in China has
agreements of this type with several UK universities. In each case 10% of the tuition fee
income received from the students recruited is contributed to staff development funds held by
the UK partners. Growing numbers of the Chinese University’s staff are being sent to the UK
to gain higher level qualifications at the UK partner institutions with the use of these funds.
In Japan, an agreement of this kind between a Junior College and a UK FE college makes
available funds to pay for field trips, additional classes and other activities which enhance the
study abroad experience of the Japanese students.

Some of the best ‘agents’ for institutions, especially schools and colleges, are parents of
current students. One such example is a parent who is also a well-connected government
official. She helps her friends and contacts to send their children to the UK institution even
handling visa and passport applications.


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3.4               Competitor country analysis

The situation is varied. In China no competitor country is better off than another as regards
the degree to which agents are working effectively on their behalf. In other countries, India
for example, Australia has a strong position and in Japan, the US has the advantage. The use
of agents by Australian institutions is almost universal. Not surprisingly therefore, Australia
is perceived as the clear leader in its effective use of agents, with the UK and the US in a
distant second and third place respectively. This view is borne out by recent research1 into
international undergraduate students studying in the UK, Australia and the USA. This found
that 60% of students studying in Australia had used the services of agents, but only 15% of
students in the UK and 10% of those in the US had done so. Importantly, the same research
revealed that 80% of students who had used agents found them useful.

A significant number of the agents interviewed for this report indicated that they found
dealing with Australian institutions easier than those in the UK or the US. Faster turnaround
of enquires and applications as well as a more businesslike approach to commission payments
were the most frequently sighted reasons. In spite of its popularity with students, the US is
not very active in any of the markets visited for this research and few institutions have
commission agreements with agents. Nevertheless, many agents still work actively to place
students on US courses with their fees covered by charges to students.

There is some evidence that the British Council’s counterpart organisations for competitor
countries, especially those for Australia (AEI2), Canada (CECN3), and New Zealand are
actively trying to build agent networks in some countries. They only commit limited
resources to agent support activities, however, and most current activity is ad hoc. AEI’s
efforts to build agent networks for Australia are undermined in some countries by the
existence of IDP4 offices that operate in direct competition with local agents.


4            Conclusions and recommendations

4.1               Building agent capacity

The key element of an agent strategy for all three priority markets visited as part of this
research project, and the main role for the British Council in those countries, is to build agent
capacity to work on behalf of the UK. Specifically, efforts need to be focused on increasing
the number, effectiveness and quality of agents working on behalf of UK providers in all
relevant sectors. This can be achieved through training, information collection and
dissemination as well as other activities aimed at developing the role of agents as marketing
partners. It includes the provision of a range of chargeable services for agents. The evidence
collected from other priority markets for UK education indicates that this is also the case in
those markets where agents are an important feature of the market.

In the case of the three markets visited and other relevant ECS supported offices, the need for
the British Council to take the lead in agent capacity building is recognised explicitly in

1
    International Student Decision Making - A review of the Asian Undergraduate Student Market, LD&A, 1997 & 2000 (research in 10 major
    source countries: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Sri Lanka)
2
    Australian Education International
3
    Canadian Education Centre Network
4
     IDP Education Australia, a company wholly owned by the Australian Universities, provides commercial placement services to students
    funded by commission payment from the receiving institutions.

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market development plans. The extent to which this is reflected in operational plans and
current practice varies. Nevertheless some excellent work is underway and some of the best
ideas and current practice identified have been incorporated in the proposals made in the
following paragraphs.

Agent training and information services
The key elements of the proposed agent training and information services include:
§ Seminars and up-dating sessions on topics of general interest as a way of engaging interest
   and building relationships with agents as well as developing their market knowledge.
   Examples of topics include visa regulations (when staff from the local visa sections would
   be asked to contribute), regulations for student working in the UK, specific UK products
   and other features such as the UCAS system. Depending on local circumstances these
   could be run on a programmed regular basis, as a form of agent-specific group counselling
   and/or an ad-hoc basis to take advantage of visitors (as the British Council India did, for
   example, with the UCAS representatives’ recent visit). The seminars could also be used
   as an opportunity to promote specific training for agents’ staff who undertake student
   counselling work (see below).
§ UK familiarisation trips for agents new to UK business or considering UK business.
§ The introduction of a specific training package for agent counsellors to develop UK
   product knowledge and sales skills. This would be a new package to be developed by
   ECS Manchester in collaboration with selected trial countries. Essentially it would be a
   simplified version of the Professional Award for Marketing British Education with an
   additional sales component. Delivery would be through British Council offices and/or
   distance delivery via the Internet as well as a component in the UK that incorporates
   familiarisation visits to UK providers.
§ Providing access to agent specific information services on the local (and where
   appropriate central) British Council web-site.
§ Ensuring that agents have access to and can make effective use of the existing education
   information resources available to advise potential students, such as the British Council’s
   ‘first steps’ visa guidance notes.

Information collection and dissemination
Any attempt by the British Council to introduce a formal recognition or accreditation scheme
is likely to be counter-productive. Instead, it is recommended that the aim of the British
Council should be actively to encourage the use of agents by students (as well as their parents)
and UK institutions through the provision of improved and proactive information services.
The key elements of the proposed services include:
§ Development of agent databases to help students and institutions identify which agents
     best meet their needs
§ Database for each country (or region/district if appropriate) to include: office location(s),
     business hours and contact details (mail, telephone, fax, email & web site), date
     established, company profile (self statement), services provided (including details of any
     fees & charges), UK institutions represented and/or product focus, whether advice & help
     can be provided to students generally (or only in regard to the institutions they represent),
     UK specialist or not, other countries represented, number of staff, total number of
     counsellors, number of counsellors dealing with UK study, numbers of students sent to the
     UK in the previous year, level of UK specific counsellor training, memberships of
     appropriate agent associations.
§ At its simplest the student-focused information included in the database for a particular
     country (or region/district) would include details of all known agents providing services to
     students wishing to go to the UK and/or representing UK institutions who want to be
     included.

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§   In some countries it might be advisable or even necessary to specify additional criteria for
    inclusion on the sections of the database which is accessible to students (parents), such as
    a minimum number of referrals to the UK each year, and/or membership of an education
    agent accreditation body.
§   Where appropriate, the database should include information only on legally recognised or
    accredited agents (e.g. China).
§   Student (parent) focused information on agents should be made available, as far as is
    practicable, on a self-access basis in electronic form, where necessary in the local
    language(s), to enquirers at British Council offices & via web-sites. Where hard copy
    information is necessary, it needs to be simple and economical to produce to allow regular
    updating.
§   Students should be able to access electronic information on a selective basis, such as
    office location, sector or institutional specialism etc. Hard copy information should be
    structured to reflect the most important local needs of students/parents and to favour the
    better agents/representatives.
§   Reference to sources of agent information to be included in all relevant student
    publications and publicity materials.
§   UK institution-focused information should be provided as an electronic ‘directory’ for
    access via ECS subscriber handbooks and/or GETIS.
§   Information provided to students needs to include details of the criteria used for inclusion
    in the database (or listings) and a disclaimer, which makes it clear that the British Council
    does not in any formal sense, recognise or accredit the agencies listed.
§   Information would be collected mainly from agents/representatives themselves on an opt-
    in basis with simple verification checks being carried out by means of referrals to
    contracted UK providers, visits to agents premises etc.
§   Initially the data made available to students will be restricted to factual information, which
    is easy to obtain and verify. However it is envisaged that the sophistication of the system
    could be developed as agent work progresses to include such things as student ratings on
    agents services.

Developing the role of agents as marketing partners
Key activities and services for this purpose could include:
§ Agent participation at British Council fairs/exhibitions under their own company name
   banner. The criteria under which Agents would be accepted as exhibitors needs to be
   clear and open. It may be necessary to restrict numbers and/or participation to UK
   specialist agents.
§ Agent-run promotion seminars/presentations at British Council premises overseas. These
   would need to be run as information sessions on particular UK products or institutions and
   the criteria for accepting bookings clearly set out (could invite bids for participation in
   British Council set-out programme). This would extend arrangements such as British
   Council Japan has for the promotion of UK School Education run by Gabbitas Thring.
§ Agent introduction events in-country. These might take the form of agent only sessions
   during education exhibitions/fairs (for example, the first two hours of an event) and/or the
   organisation of an agent ‘fair’ or workshop alongside a promotional event. In the former
   case this would enable agents to talk to selected institutional representatives and in the
   latter provider representatives could talk to selected agents (as in the recent agents
   workshop organised by British Council Beijing).

E-recruitment
E-recruitment developments may, in the long-term, replace agents as a way forward, more so
in some counties than others. However, at present, the evidence points to such developments
complementing agent services by meeting the need for improved information outreach in

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order to generate interest in study in the UK (and competitor countries). The conversion of
that interest into firm ‘sales’ is likely to continue to depend on ‘off-line’, individually
delivered, personal services from agents and the institutions, for the foreseeable future.

Positioning the British Council in a supporting role
For the British Council to be able to take on the role of agent capacity building in a particular
market, it will be vital that it is not seen in any respect to be working as a competitor to the
agents in that market. This implies that it will be counter-productive for British Council
offices in priority markets to continue to offer, or set up new placement services on a
commercial basis (i.e. a service supported by student fees and/or commissions) where these
services compete directly with those offered by local agents.

Similarly the efforts of the British Council to build agent capacity will be undermined if its
criteria for dealing with some agents on a partial basis are not open, clear and justifiable.

4.2               Encouraging UK institutions to make more effective use of agents

In addition to developing agents’ capability to work for the UK, the securing of increased
business from agents in some, if not all, markets will depend on increasing the range and
number of UK products that they are able to offer to students (parents) on a commissionable
basis.

Understanding the role and value of agents
Encouraging increased use of agents will depend on gaining wider acceptance and
understanding among UK providers of the role and value of agents in student recruitment. It
also depends on developing institutional capacity to use agents effectively through training
initiatives, good practice guides, model agreements and the like. In particular, in line with the
findings and recommendations of the Gilligan Report5, improved process management, a
more professional approach to marketing as well as a more realistic, market view about
service charges made by agents and recruitment costs generally, is required. The British
Council (ECS) is ideally placed to take this agenda forward.

It is recommended that the British Council progress one specific aspect of this agenda by
encouraging UK institutions to consider collecting substantial deposits from students in
specific countries as a prerequisite for the issue of the acceptance letters required for visa
purposes. This will protect the interests of institutions and agents where student no-shows
have become a particular problem. It would not preclude refunds of deposits to students who
have genuine reasons for withdrawing from a study programme or who are refused visas. As
an alternative to a cash payment by the student, a bank draft can be lodged with a third party
or dispatched to the accepting institutions and cashed only when a visa had been issued or a
student fails to enrol without adequate reason. This avoids unnecessary international money
transfers in the event of visa refusal.

The limitations of the British Council role
The proposed focus of the British Council in-country effort on general agent capacity building
described above will also encourage more UK institutions to work with agents, through the
provision of improved information on reliable agents, in-country agent introductory events,
familiarisation trips and the like. However, these measures will only encourage direct
participation in any market by a limited number of providers which actively choose to focus
on that market and are able and willing to invest the significant resources needed to develop

5
    Realising our Potential, Professor Colin Gilligan, ECS 2000

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and support their own agents/representation. The direct results of this work, in terms of
increased student recruitment may be slow to emerge. In addition in most markets, this action
alone may not capture sufficient interest from agents to convince them that the significantly
increased investment in UK training and promotion work that is needed to accelerate UK
market development would be worthwhile.

Encouraging a wider range of institutions to work with agents
Success in reaching the targets of the Prime Minister’s Initiative in some countries is
dependent on achieving a broader spread of international students across the UK system and
in turn this depends on finding ways of helping and encouraging a wider range of institutions
to work with agents. In particular, this applies to smaller institutions, such as schools and
colleges with the capacity to admit only a small number of students from any particular source
country, or those that want to work with agents in a limited way (for particular products for
example). However it also applies to larger institutions that aspire to a broader recruitment
base but whose direct marketing efforts are, of necessity, concentrated in a limited number of
countries.

In these circumstances institutions can be encouraged to use one of the growing number of
agent management and student placement services which are being established by private
companies. British Council offices overseas may also wish to consider offering specific
product focused services which bring together a group of agents and a group of UK
institutions for the purpose of promoting products that are most in demand in a particular
market. The China EFL summer school model is a good example.

Although some institutions are reluctant to work with commercial agents overseas, they may
be keen to establish agency partnerships with overseas universities, colleges or schools, where
commission payments are used for academic purposes. British Council offices overseas can
play a key role in identifying institutions that want links of this kind.

4.3           Country focus

Of the 23 countries designated as priority 1 and priority 2 in the Prime Minister’s initiative,
where work for the Education UK marketing brand campaign is concentrated, some 17 are
countries where agents play a key role in accessing the market. It is recommended that agent
development work be concentrated in these countries. The relative priority which needs to be
given agent development work within each of these 17 countries will vary and can be assigned
by taking into account:
§ each country’s priority status for the Education UK Brand campaign;
§ the relative importance of agents in accessing its market; and
§ the likely impact of UK agent development work in that country on the overall recruitment
    targets for the PM’s initiative.

Using these criteria the seventeen countries can be assigned one of four priority levels. The
suggested priority level for agent development work for each country is:
Priority 1:                     Priority 2                  Priority 3   Priority 4
Brazil                          Korea                       Cyprus       Hong Kong
China                           Indonesia                   Mexico       Singapore
India                           Pakistan                    Vietnam      Malaysia
Japan                           Turkey
Russia                          Taiwan
                                Thailand

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4.4           Existing British Council placement scheme

This report concentrates on the countries designated as priority 1 and priority 2 as part of the
Prime Minster’s Initiative. With the exception of Brazil (Recife office), Russia, Turkey and
the Gulf States, these countries do not offer British Council placement services. Where
placement services are offered by the British Council in significant source markets, agents
perceive this as unfair competition even though the number of students placed via Council
schemes is very modest. Where this is the situation, it is likely to be detrimental to the long-
term interests of the UK market. At worst it may encourage a shift in the business focus of
agents to competitor countries. Certainly, such schemes make it more difficult for the British
Council offices concerned to take on the wider and potentially more fruitful role of agent
capacity building where this is thought to be desirable. In these locations consideration
should be given to phasing out the British Council placement scheme and developing a range
of support services for agents.

4.5           Financing agent support services

Many of the proposed services for agents and UK providers are labour intensive and have
significant resource implications. While ECS subscribers and the British Council might be
willing to contribute pump-priming funds for agent services, it is unrealistic to expect them to
be funded in this way on a continuing basis. A costed menu of services will be needed in each
country as well as for services provided centrally by ECS in the UK. A sample menu of
services, including a suggested basis for establishing charges is attached as Appendix I.

In new markets where agents are at early stage of development, the provision of such services
on a subsidised basis can be justified as the means of engaging agent interest in the UK to
accelerate market growth. As markets become more sophisticated, the commercial value of
the services that the British Council can provide will rise and charges to agents should be
adjusted accordingly.

It is recommended that agent training be funded, at least in part, by means of charges to agents
and sponsorship where this is possible or appropriate. Where activities are subsidised
initially, the aim should be for them to become wholly, or mainly, self-financing in the long
term, at least on a direct cost-recovery basis. The pricing of agent training activities generally
and counsellor training specifically, as well as other chargeable services, will need to be
tailored to local needs taking into account the current level of market development and
maturity.




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Appendix I
Menu of Agent Services

Services for UK providers:
• Access to the British Council database of information on agents
• Sample agent agreements tailored to the local circumstances and market
• Referral of students to agents
• Tailored, in-country visit programmes, for one or more institutions, as an introduction to
   prospective partners (chargeable)
• Special agent session incorporated into an education exhibition or other promotional event
   (costs incorporated as part of main event or offered for a supplementary fee as
   appropriate)

Services for Agents
§ Listing on the British Council information database for students and UK providers (free)
§ Attendance at updating seminars, (chargeable- direct cost recovery basis only, for
   example, cost of venue hire and refreshments)
§ Agents newsletter/listserv (free or small subscription)
§ Agents information database/website (free or as a subscription service, password
   protected)
§ Provision of Education UK materials to support agent marketing of the UK as a study
   destination, including materials in electronic format downloadable from agents
   database/website (basic supply free, additional requirements chargeable- direct cost
   recovery basis only)
§ Counsellor training (chargeable)
§ Agent participation in education exhibitions under their own company name banner
   (chargeable)
§ Agent advertisements incorporated in event promotion campaigns and special publications
   (chargeable)
§ Display of Agents' brochures in British Council offices (chargeable)
§ Agent run promotion seminars at British Council premises (chargeable)
§ Profile on British Council website (alongside student information on Agents) with direct
   link to agents own site (chargeable)
§ Individual tailored UK familiarisation trip, including introduction to prospective partners
   (chargeable)
§ Placement advice to help to agents identify appropriate placements for individual students
   (subscription service)

Central support from the British Council for UK providers
§ Training seminars on working with agents (chargeable- direct cost recovery basis only, for
   example, cost of venue hire and refreshments)
§ Development and publication of a good practice guide on working with agents




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix I: Menu of Agent Services – page 1
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                   March 2002



Central support from the British Council UK for overseas offices
§ Development of training package for agent counsellors (variation of the British Council
   training package for education counsellors)
§ Training and updating seminar packages – down-loadable from the British Council
   Intranet (offices could contribute material from recent sessions they have run)
§ Development of a model code of practice for agents that could be translated as appropriate
   & tailored to local circumstances by overseas offices
§ Development of model agent agreements that can be translated as appropriate & tailored
   to local circumstances by overseas offices
§ Development of a database system for agent information.




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix I: Menu of Agent Services – page 2
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                             March 2002




Appendix II


Agent Market Review: China

1.       Background and legal position
The rapid growth of the self-funded overseas study market in China in the 1990s was
accompanied by an equally rapid growth in the number of agencies providing services to
help students arrange study abroad. By 1999 there were several thousand agents in
operation. While many agents provided a valuable service, there were growing Government
concerns about the activities of less scrupulous operators who were exploiting students and
their parents. This was only one of the Government’s many concerns about the growth of
overseas education. Other major concerns included the brain-drain effects of the outflow of
such large numbers of young people as well as the negative impact on China’s capital
reserves. Although self-funded study abroad is seen as crucial to the development and
modernisation of China’s economy, it became clear that the Government felt that the market
should be much more tightly regulated.

In response to these issue surrounding education agents the Government intoduced a
licensing scheme in late 1999 which included strict new regulations and provided a detailed
regulatory framework for the establishment, operation and supervision of agencies in
China1. With the introduction of the new regulations, any agency wishing to continue
operating was required to apply for a licence. Licences have been strictly limited so that
even after three rounds of applications (in March 2002) there were only 228 licensed agents
throughout China. Four agents have licences that permit them to operate nation-wide but
the rest have licences that only allow them to operate in a particular province, autonomous
region or municipality.

In spite of the new regulations the agent situation is far from clear and it is still difficult to
find reliable, effective agents in China. Although the regulations were introduced to protect
students, they also seemed designed to protect the market for weaker government-owned
businesses. Some government agencies, which have been criticised for being bureaucratic
and inefficient as well as providing inadequate financial incentives for their staff, have been
able to obtain licences while applications from many better private agents have been
unsuccessful.




1
  The Administration of Self-funded Overseas Study Agency Services Regulations and Implementing Rules, full details are
included in the GETIS profile for China. See http://www.britishcouncil.org/promotion/getis/subs/china/agents.htm (ECS
member or GETIS login required).

Education Counselling Service                                        Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 1
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                             March 2002




Inevitably in China, some agents have sought to circumvent the regulations. Many agents
who have been unable to get licences are still in business either illegally or by operating in
partnership with a licensed agent under some form of sub-licence agreement. The
regulations do not provide for sub-licensees so that sub-licensees are often referred to as
‘departments’ of the recognised agents. They operate on the basis of some form of
commission or service fee share arrangement. Since most agents in China charge students
(or their parents) substantial service fees in additional to collecting commissions, a popular
model is for the parent licensee to collect the service fee while the sub-licensee collects
commissions from the overseas partners

The new regulations have had little effect on the level of professionalism amongst agents
and as yet there is no formal agents association or professional body. Forged documentation
is still rife with the AEI2 office in Beijing, for example, reporting that 20% of Australian
student visa applications made via agents include forged documents. Few agents are felt to
have a strong enough education focus and there is only limited UK product knowledge
generally amongst agents. The heads of many agencies have little or no English, which
makes it difficult for UK providers to work with them unless they are able to send a
Mandarin-speaking representative to conduct negations. At the same time agents have
complained that they have difficulty in finding enough UK institutional clients, especially at
the pre-university level. Direct overtures made by agents to UK institutions are mostly
ignored.

Nevertheless there are signs that the situation is improving. Agent training initiatives from
the British Council and its counterparts from competitor countries have been received
enthusiatically. There are also tentative moves towards the formation of an agents
association by a small group of Beijing-based agents who meet together regularly to
exchange ideas.


2.       The role of agents in China
In spite of the difficulties, overseas education providers need to work with agents in China
since direct access to the international education market is strictly limited. The tightly
controlled nature of the market means that foreign enterprises, including overseas education
institutions, are not allowed to undertake independent direct marketing and promotion work
in China. There is some hope that this situation may change following China’s entry to the
WTO. However, since education falls outside the scope of the initial WTO agreement there
is little hope that there will be any move to free-up the international education market in
China for at least five years.




2
 Australian Education International, a division of the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and
Training (DEST, is responsible for the generic promotion of Australian education abroad.

Education Counselling Service                                         Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 2
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                      March 2002




While it is possible for Chinese students to arrange study overseas without the help of an
agent, it is clear that many, especially younger students and their parents, prefer to use the
services of agents and find them helpful. Generally, Chinese students and parents use
agents because they lack knowledge and understanding of overseas education systems.
Even where students or their parents find suitable placements on their own, they often lack
the confidence or time to complete the necessary formalities, especially visa application
procedures, without help. Typically this means they choose to pay for assistance from an
agent. In China since many customers, particularly parents, have only limited English
language skills, agents play an important role since they offer information and advice in
Chinese as well as vital follow-up services during the period of study abroad, including
liaison with overseas institutions and emergency support.

At present Chinese education agents are mainly involved in promoting long-term overseas
study options at the schools, FE and HE levels. Little of their work is focused on promoting
ELT products at present, mainly because of visa restrictions. ELT preparation courses for
older students have to be offered as part of a formal study plan leading to an academic or
vocational qualification in order to satisfy visa requirements for most destination countries,
including the UK. This situation is changing mainly as a result of the growing demand for
overseas ELT summer schools for young learners.

Although some agents specialise in promoting study opportunities in one country, including
several UK specialists, the majority of licensed agents in China work with institutional
clients in several destination countries. However most agent operations were organised so
that they had specialist ‘departments’ and staff for each destination country.


3.         Financial arrangements
Most agents in China charge students (parents) service fees in addition to collecting
commissions from overseas institutions. The level of agents’ service fees varies
enormously, as do the services they provide, although most service fees cover visa
facilitation. The rates quoted by agents interviewed for this research varied from 8000 RMB
(about £6703) for placement on a language-training course of 6 months duration or longer up
to 16,500 RMB (about £1,390) for placement on a degree course. According to AEI, service
fees can be as high as 50,000 RMB (about £4,200). One agent had differential fees
according to the destination country to reflect the varying amount of work needed to
facilitate visa applications for those destinations. The lowest fee was 10,000 RMB (about
£840) for placement on a UK degree programme and the highest was 16,500 RMB (about
£1390) for help to gain a degree place in Canada.

The high level of agent service fees in China reflects the early stage of the market’s
development and a lack of competition. The situation has been exacerbated, at least in the
short-term, by the Government’s new agent regulations, which has severely restricted the
number of recognised agents. As the number of recognised agents increases competition
between agencies is expected to intensify and service fees are likely to fall.




3
    at the current exchange rate of £1=11.9 RMB

Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 3
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                      March 2002




Commission rates paid by overseas institutions to Chinese agents are similar to those
applicable in the other countries surveyed. UK HE providers generally pay 10% of the
tuition fee (first year fee only for longer courses) with rates offered by schools and FE
colleges varying between 10% and 20% of the tuition fee depending on course type,
duration and other factors.


4.       Alternative agents and market access routes
In China, apart from the use of licensed education agents there are significant opportunities
to develop recruitment partnerships with education institutions. Some Chinese universities,
colleges and schools are keen to develop agency-type arrangements with overseas partners
in order to provide progression routes and credit transfer to courses abroad or study abroad
experience for their students. In effect, the institutions recruit for their overseas partners
from amongst their own student bodies and sometimes more broadly. As an incentive the
overseas partner sets aside funds, equivalent to the commission payments it would have paid
to a commercial agent, for use by the institution. These funds are used in a number of ways,
including staff development, and the provision of student scholarships or bursaries.

The Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GUFS), for example, has agreements of this
type with several UK universities. In each case 10% of the tuition fee income received from
the students recruited is contributed to staff development funds held by the UK partners.
Growing numbers of GUFS staff are being sent to the UK to gain higher level qualifications
at the UK partner institutions using these funds. A specialist business and computing
college in Beijing has a similar agreement with a UK FE college with the ‘commission’
payments generated under the arrangement used to fund student scholarships.

As in other countries there are also opportunities in China to develop recruitment
partnerships with alumni or, in the case of schools and colleges, parents of current students.
One institution indicated that one of its best Chinese ‘agents’ is a parent of a current student
who is also a well-connected government official. She helps her friends and contacts to
send their children to the UK institution even handling visa and passport applications.
Although the ‘agent’ receives commission payments, since the work is done as a ‘favour’ to
friends and contacts on an informal basis, the institution concerned feels that the
arrangement is unlikely to fall foul of the Government’s agent regulations. This opinion has
not been tested however.




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 4
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                      March 2002




5.       Competitor relationships with agents
In China no competitor country is substantially better off than another as regards the degree
to which agents are working effectively on their behalf. This is mainly a reflection of the
general lack of professionalism amongst agents at present. The UK currently has some
advantage in this market since in comparison to the other main anglophone destinations, (the
USA, Canada and Australia) agents perceive UK student visas to be the easiest and quickest
to obtain. Chinese agents are keen to work with UK partners as a result. This perception
may have changed in Australia’s favour as a result of the new visa regulations that it
introduced in July 2001 (see 5.2 below). However, the introduction on a trial basis of a UK
visa fast tracking service for agents in March 2002 is likely to mean the UK has regained its
advantage.

5.1           USA
In spite of the popularity of the USA as a study destination, relatively few US institutions
are actively working with Chinese education agents. There is a strong general perception in
China that getting a US visa is almost impossible for self-funded students and this has
discouraged agents from seeking contracts with US providers. The ACEE (American
Centre for Educational Exchange) which forms part of the US diplomatic mission in China
and inter alia provides information about study opportunities in the US, is making no
attempt to change this perception and has no dealings with agents. Its efforts are focused on
promoting scholarship-funded postgraduate opportunities to graduates of China’s top
universities and promulgating information about visa processes to encourage potential
students to make their own applications for study places and visas directly.

5.2           Australia
A few of the Chinese agents interviewed for this review indicated that they find dealing with
Australian institutions to be easier than those in the UK. While this was much less strongly
expressed in China than in other countries visited, the reasons were the same. They
included the faster turnaround of enquires and applications as well as a more business-like
approach to commission payments. In spite of this, the difficulty of obtaining study visas
for certain courses in Australia has made some agents less keen to work with Australian
providers. With a relaxation of visa regulations in July 2001 this is likely to change.

Previously Chinese students were required to achieve an IELTS score of 6.5 in order to
obtain an Australian student visa irrespective of the level and type of course they intended to
pursue. Under the new regulations IELTS requirements are now set at appropriate levels for
the course and level of intended study so that, for example, lower scores are required for
school study or foundation courses where language training forms an integral part of the
study programme.




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 5
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                      March 2002




The organisation with responsibly for promoting Australian education in China, AEI,
undertakes only limited agent development work such as running occasional training
workshops to highlight changes in the visa application procedures and regulations. AEI
accepts that the use of agents is necessary to gain access to the market in China, and advises
Australian providers accordingly. However, AEI does not offer advice to institutions about
the agents it considers to be the most reputable and/or effective nor does it provide students
with any information about agents. Controversially, it has been advising Australian
institutions that unlicensed agents are likely to be as good or better than the licensed agents.

5.3           Canada
The organisation with responsibly for promoting Canadian education in China is the
Canadian Education Centre Network (CECN) office based in the Canadian Embassy in
Beijing. The CECN office currently concentrates its limited resources on the provision of
student information services and running promotional events. At present its agent
development work is limited to the selection and funding of between 8 and 10 Chinese
agents to attend an agent fair in Canada in November each year. This annual fair, which is
similar to the ARELS Agent workshop held in the UK each year, brings together selected
agents from all the key markets for Canadian education to meet Canadian providers and
attend seminars and workshop to update their product and country knowledge.
Familiarisation visits to Canadian institutions are also organised for the agents during their
stay in Canada.

In recognition of the importance of agents in China, especially as a means of accessing
potential school and college students, the CECN office in China indicated that it intend to
scale up its agent development work. It plans, among other things, to run agent training
seminars and offer a range of improved information services for agents. One of its key
objectives is to broaden the range of agents working for Canada. Currently most agents
working for Canada are run by Canadian Chinese.


6.       E-recruitment
The importance of the Internet as a source of study abroad information in China is
increasing rapidly but few believe that ‘e-recruitment’ initiatives will replace agents in the
foreseeable future. At present, the evidence points to such developments complementing
agent services in China by meeting the need for improved information about study abroad
opportunities in the UK (and competitor countries) in order to generate interest in individual
providers. The conversion of interest into firm ‘sales’ is likely to continue to depend on
‘off-line’, individually delivered, personal services from agents and the institutions, for the
foreseeable future




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 6
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                      March 2002




The collaboration between 263.net, one of the most popular Chinese portals for young
people in the age group targeted by the Education UK campaign, and the China Education
Service Centre (CESC), one of the biggest government-run education agencies, is typical of
current developments. 263.net has an education sub-site that contains general information
about education abroad in most destination countries. The British Council has provided the
UK content for this site. Enquires generated by the 263.net site are serviced by CESC and
there is some form of commission or service-fee share arrangement between the two
organisation in respect of the resulting student placements. 263 is now trying to work
directly with institutions in the main overseas destinations (the UK Australia, Canada, the
USA and New Zealand). It is offering institutions an opportunity to include a profile on the
site and to receive enquiries from the site for a one-off annual fee. 263.net hopes to move
towards a system of commission on sales-leads generated via the site.


7.       Current British Council work with agents in China
The British Council China gives a high priority to agent development work because agents
are such an important means of market access in China. The Council recognised at an early
stage that unless the general level of professionalism of education agents was raised
substantially it would be difficult for any UK provider to develop effective marketing
partnerships with Chinese agents. At the same time, because of the vast scale of the demand
for overseas education in China, the Council also recognised that achieving the present
target numbers depends on being able to secure a wide distribution of Chinese students
amongst UK providers. This means encouraging more UK providers to work with agents in
China. The Council has therefore focused its efforts on increasing the number, effectiveness
and quality of agents working on behalf of UK providers in all relevant sectors. At present
all services to agents are provided free of charge.

Specific agent development activities in China have included:
§ Organising training workshops for licensed agents. By July 2001, the Council had run
   seminars in eight cities attracting over 350 participants from 102 agencies, representing
   more than half of all licensed agencies.
§ The provision of hard copy Education UK materials to support agent marketing of the
   UK as a study destination.
§ The development of a password-protected agent network web site providing agents with
   information about the UK, counselling support as well as down-loadable promotional
   materials.
§ Organising agent workshops or fairs alongside in-country promotion events to facilitate
   the introduction of agents to UK providers and vice versa.
§ Producing regional agent directories to provide UK institutions with detailed
   background information about all licensed agents.
§ Providing information for students to direct them to the licensed agents that can help
   arrange study abroad in the UK. This includes details of the UK institutions represented
   by each agent as well an indication of whether the agent(s) can help students to apply to
   any UK institution or only those with which it has a commission agreement.




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 7
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                      March 2002




Another Council project in China, primarily aimed at developing the market for UK English
language summer schools, is also having a positive spin-off on the Council’s work with
agents. Under this project, the Council is helping agents to foster working relations with
accredited English language schools which clearly demonstrates the Council’s value as a
marketing partner to agent in China.

In comparison with other countries the Council in China does have two distinct advantages
which have eased the way for the Council to position itself in a supporting role for agent
development work. First, the introduction of the Government licensing scheme for agents
means that the Council has no problem selecting agents to work with. It can focus all its
efforts on recognised agents and at present there is only a limited number of such agents.
Second, since the Council operation in China is new and it does not offer education
counselling or commercial services, such as education placement and English language
training, the Council has never been seen as a competitor to agents in China

Not withstanding its advantages, the Council in China has made very rapid and impressive
progress in its agent development work. As a result it has already built strong relations with
a significant number of the licensed agents. Initial feedback from agents has been very
positive and it is clear that the services that the Council provides are both valued and in line
with current agent needs and expectations. Much of the Council’s work in China provides a
model of good practice that can be adapted to help progress agent development work in
other key markets.


8.       Future Council agent development work in China
The Council in China plans to build on the foundations it has laid by extending its range of
professional development activities for agents. This includes undertaking further agent
training, providing enhanced information services and opportunities for professional
networking as well as organising further events to introduce agents to potential UK client
institutions.

In a new market such as China where agents are at early stage of development, the provision
of free or subsidised agent services can be justified as the means of engaging agent interest
in the UK to accelerate market growth. As the market develops, the commercial value of
the services that the British Council can provide will rise and charges to agents should be
adjusted accordingly. To ensure that agent support activities can be sustained in China in
the long term therefore, it will be necessary to establish a basis for the staged introduction of
charges to agents and providers for some agent services and to begin recovering some of the
costs involved.




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 8
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                      March 2002




In addition, it is recommended that the Council consider the following to further support its
agent development work:
§ Posting electronic versions of the Council’s regional agent directories on the GETIS web
    site to facilitate access by UK providers to the detailed information that the Council
    already has available about licensed agents.
§ Undertaking a market survey to identifying potential ‘alternative’ agents for UK
    providers. (i.e. Chinese education institutions who may be interested in fostering links
    with UK providers and directing students to them under a similar arrangement to those
    established with UK providers by the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies or by
    the specialist computing college in Beijing (see section 4).
§ Offering agent monitoring services to individual UK providers (mystery shopping,
    collection & translation of printed adverts etc.)

JK
March 2002




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix II: Agent Market Review China – page 9
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                               March 2002




Appendix III
Agent Market Review: India

1.       Background
The rapid growth of the overseas study market in India since 1990 has been accompanied by
a proliferation of education agencies established to provide services to help Indian students
arrange study abroad. There are now many hundreds of education agents operating
throughout India. These range from large, well-established businesses, with several years
experience in the international education market and branch offices in most major cites, to
new, shoe-string operations with little experience in the field. While some agents provide a
valuable service, there are many less scrupulous operators who exploit students and their
parents or perpetuate visa fraud. The general reputation of agents in the India market is very
mixed as a consequence.

Although there is general concern about the situation, there have been no official moves to
regulate the activities of education agents and none are expected. There is no formal
professional body for education agents and the only agents’ association is AAERI,1 a
grouping of over 140 agents that are working with Australian providers. This was formed at
the instigation of the Delhi-based AEI office2, rather than by the agents themselves, with the
aim of improving the service standards and recognition of agents working for Australian
providers. However, AAERI has done little to promote the professional development of its
members or control their activities. This means that AAERI membership is currently of
questionable value as a means of identifying reputable agents even though its members are
supposed to work to specified quality guidelines. Forged documentation and attempted visa
fraud is rife in India and Australia has one of the highest visa rejection rates for Indian
students even though many rejected students have been assisted by AAERI members.

The current agent situation is far from clear and the general level of professionalism
amongst agents in India is low. There is only limited UK product knowledge amongst
agents, largely because there are relatively few agents working for UK providers in
comparison to the numbers directing students to Australia and the USA. UK providers find
it difficult to find reliable and effective agents in India. At the same time agents have
complained that they have difficulty in finding enough UK institutional clients. Direct
overtures made by agents to UK institutions are mostly ignored.

Nevertheless the situation is improving, mainly as a result of the intensifying competition
among agents.




1
  Association of Australian Education Representatives in India. Branch offices of agents with national coverage have
separate member status. The current membership of 142 comprises 106 agent organisations and 36 branch offices.
2
  Australian Education International, a division of the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and
Training, is responsible for the generic promotion of Australian education abroad.

Education Counselling Service                                          Appendix III: Agent Market Review: India – page 1
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                        March 2002




2.       The role of agents in India
In spite of the difficulties, overseas education providers find it useful to work with agents in
India to increase their outreach in the India market and provide the level of admissions
assistance that many Indian students feel they need.

While many Indian students arrange study overseas without the help of an agent, especially
postgraduates, it is clear that others, in particular younger students and their parents, prefer
to use the services of agents and find them helpful. Generally, Indian students and parents
use agents because they lack knowledge and understanding of overseas education systems.
However, even where students find suitable placements on their own, they often lack the
confidence or time to complete the necessary formalities, especially visa application
procedures, without help. The service culture in India is such that the rich expect someone
to do the work for them and they expect very high levels of service. Typically this means
they choose to pay for assistance from an agent. In India some parent customers also value
the service of agents for the follow-up services they offer during the period of study abroad,
including liaison with overseas institutions and emergency support.

Indian education agents are primarily involved in promoting long-term overseas study
options at the FE and HE level. All but a very small minority from the elite classes
complete their school education in India and the majority of students that can afford further
and higher education study abroad are educated in English-medium institutions in India.
This mean that little agent work is focused on promoting ELT products and school
programmes.

There are many types of agent in India including
§ Travel agents who also arrange study abroad as a side line
§ Immigration agents who also arrange study abroad as a side line
§ Other people who run an overseas education advisory services as a side line to their
    main business
§ Education specialists
§ Locally employed institutional representatives, including some who are alumni of the
    institution they represent.
Some agents specialise in promoting study opportunities in one country, although there are
few UK specialists. The majority of agents in India work with institutional clients in several
destination countries. Some agents have representative offices overseas.

By western standard, the office accommodation of most education agents is very poor and
few agencies have well-trained staff. The vast majority of study abroad counsellors
employed by agencies in India are young women. As a result, few agencies are prepared to
invest in counsellor training since it is still the convention in India for most women to leave
work when they have a family. Some agencies also fear that counsellor training may
encourage staff to leave and start up competitor businesses.




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix III: Agent Market Review: India – page 2
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                               March 2002




3.         Financial arrangements
The majority of agents in India charge students (parents) service fees in addition to
collecting commissions. The levels of agents’ service fees vary enormously, as do the
services they provide. In general, however the level of agent service fees in India has been
falling as the market has become more competitive and mature.

Most agents now offer free general information and advice. They only charge service fees
at the application stage and for additional services. Where students apply to institutions
represented by the agents, service charges for application assistance, if any, generally take
the form of a small fee to cover administrative costs, (such as postage and fax charges) or to
deter non-serious applicants. Where students request help with applications to institutions
that are not represented by the agents, as is the case for applications to many US
universities, the fee charged is typically very much higher. Fees usually vary according to
the level and type of course and the number of applications made. Fees for additional
definable services such as making travel arrangements, visa facilitation and other follow up
services are normally levied separately

Commission rates paid by overseas institutions to Indian agents are similar to those
applicable in the other countries surveyed. UK HE providers generally pay 10% of the
tuition fee (first year fee only for longer courses) with rates offered by schools and FE
colleges varying between 10% and 20% of the tuition fee depending on course type,
duration.


4.         Competitor relationships with agents
The use of agents by Australian institutions is almost universal and in India agents facilitate
about 80% of all Australian student visa applications. A significant number of the agents
interviewed for this review indicated that they found dealing with Australian institutions
easier than those in the UK or the US. Faster turnaround of enquires and applications as
well as a more businesslike approach to commission payments were the most frequently
quoted reasons. Not surprisingly therefore, Australia has a very strong position in the India
market as regards the effective use of agents. Its position is not, however, unassailable. The
increased difficulty of obtaining study visas for certain courses in Australia following the
introduction of new visa regulations in July 2001 (see 4.2 below) means that agents are
seeking to develop arrangements with competitor country providers.

4.1             USA
In spite of the popularity of the USA as a study destination, relatively few US universities
have commission agreements with Indian education agents. Nevertheless, many agents still
work actively to place students on US degree courses with their fees covered by charges to
students. There is a strong general perception in India that getting a US visa for FE level
study is almost impossible for self-funded students and this has discouraged agents from
seeking contracts with US community colleges. The United States Education Foundation in
India3, the US government-supported agency that provides information about study

3
    An office of IIE (International Education and Exchange) within USEFI provides the US education information service.

Education Counselling Service                                          Appendix III: Agent Market Review: India – page 3
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                                March 2002




opportunities in the US from four office in the, makes no attempt to change this perception.
It has no dealings with agents and its efforts are mainly focused on promoting scholarship-
funded postgraduate opportunities to graduates of India’s top universities.

4.2           Australia
Australia achieved spectacular success in the India market, especially in the FE sector, by
developing an extensive and effective network of over 130 agents covering the geographical
areas where demand was greatest. Private sector FE institutions in and around Sydney and
Melbourne have especially benefited from the agents’ work. In 2000 these institutions
accounted for 45% of all Indian student enrolments in Australia.

Australia’s reliance on agents and the dominance of its private institutions in the market has
not been without problems. It has generated the perception that Australian institutions are
entirely commercially driven. This, combined with adverse publicity about the activities of
some less scrupulous agents, has undermined efforts to raise the profile of Australia as a
high quality education provider. In addition, a significant number of Indian students
recruited to private FE colleges contravened their student visa conditions. The visa rejection
rate increased significantly as a result leading to the tail-off in FE student numbers evident
in the 2000 enrolment statistics and the introduction of the new visa regulations in July
2001.

The new visa regulations place additional barriers in the way of Indian student applicants.
This has seriously undermined Australia’s competitive advantage in all segments of the
India market but especially in the market for FE products. As a result, many students are
now seeking alternative study destinations and many agents who have been recruiting
successfully for Australian providers are now looking to replace their lost Australian
business by working with clients in other countries. Canada and New Zealand as well as the
UK are potential beneficiaries of this significant change in the market conditions.

The strong IDP4 presence in India also undermines Australia’s relations with Indian agents
and is seen as another factor contributing to the trend for Indian agents to seek clients in
competitor countries. IDP has five offices in India that offer a commercial placement
service on behalf of all Australian providers active in the India market in direct competition
to local agents. IDP’s services to students, which include information and enrolment
assistance as well as visa facilitation, are free of charge. Since IDP also organises the main
Australian education exhibitions in India, it is seen as the ‘official’ representative or agent of
Australian institutions in India. Many local agents believe that this quasi-official status
gives IDP a significant and unfair advantage in the market. Certainly, with the entry of IDP
to the India market competition between agents intensified, driving down agents’ service
charges to students.

The organisation with responsibly for the generic promotion of Australian education in
India, AEI, believes that the use of local agents is necessary to gain access to the market in
India and advises Australian providers accordingly. AEI has undertaken extensive agent
development work in India, which included identifying potential agents, running training

4
  IDP Education Australia, a company wholly owed by Australian universities provides student advisory and recruitment
services on a commission basis in 35 countries to all Australian universities and over 200 colleges, schools and English
language institutes.

Education Counselling Service                                          Appendix III: Agent Market Review: India – page 4
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                        March 2002




workshops to increase product knowledge and highlight regulation changes as well as
providing the administrative and financial support to establish AAERI. However, AEI does
not offer advice to institutions identifying the agents it considers to be the most reputable
and/or effective.

This lack of discrimination has led to the engagement of some less scrupulous agents to
work on behalf of Australian institutions and this is now undermining Australia’s
recruitment efforts. Certainly in its enthusiasm to develop a wide agent network as quickly
as possible AEI encouraged all agents it identified to enrol in AAERI without undertaking
any background and quality control checks. In turn Australian institutions have engaged the
services of these agents without adequate checks on their suitability. The result is that
AAERI is now seen as little more than a talking shop that lends an air of respectability to
some unscrupulous operators. Although efforts are being made by some members to ‘clean
up’ the association and expel those acting badly it is proving difficult to introduce the
controls and sanctions.

The agent information AEI provides to students is limited to the contact details of the agents
that represent particular institutions.

4.3           Canada
The organisation with responsibly for promoting Canadian education in India is the
Canadian Education Centre Network (CECN) office based in the Canadian Embassy in
Delhi, which was established in 1997. The CECN office currently concentrates its limited
resources on the provision of student information services and running promotional events.
It does not undertake any agent development work, although this is under review. At
present only a minority of agents work with Canadian institutions and most that do are
specialist Canadian immigration agents.

5.       E-recruitment
The Internet has been an important source of information on postgraduate study
opportunities abroad for Indian students for several years. Its importance as a source of
general study abroad information in India is increasing rapidly. However, few believe that
‘e-recruitment’ initiatives will replace agents in the foreseeable future. At present, the
evidence points to such developments complementing agent services in India by meeting the
need for improved information about study abroad opportunities in the UK (and competitor
countries) in order to generate interest in individual providers. The conversion of interest
into firm ‘sales’ is likely to continue to depend on ‘off-line’, individually delivered, personal
services from agents and the institutions, for the foreseeable future

A number of e-companies are moving to offer study abroad services although this is not the
core business of any of the organisations concerned. The approach taken by Learning
Universe, a pioneering e-learning and education organisation in India, is typical of current
developments. Its core business is providing paid access to e-learning materials via the
Internet (www.egurucool.com) to middle class people aged between 14 and 24. This same
group, which includes most potential study abroad students, is also the target audience for
the Education UK campaign. Learning Universe plans to establish a study abroad page
linked to its egurucool.com site. Initially the site will provide general study abroad


Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix III: Agent Market Review: India – page 5
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                        March 2002




information but development plans include the provision of on-line counselling and on-line
application processing.

Education agents are behind other e-recruitment initiatives. Typical of these is
www.edcucationmatch.com which is an offshoot of ECO (Education Concepts and Options
Pvt. Ltd.), an agent specialising in helping students secure placements in US universities.
The site offers overseas institutions the opportunity to post information on the site and
provides a link to their own web site for an annual subscription payment. The site includes
information on a selection of subscribers from all the main overseas destinations. An
optional ‘off-line’ enquiry follow-up service is offered via ECO.


6.       Current British Council work with agents in India
The Council’s ultimate aim is the building of agent capacity to work on behalf of UK HE
and FE providers, specifically to increase the number, effectiveness and quality of these
agents. The Council recognised, however, that before beginning to interest a wider network
of agents it would be necessary to first build effective working relationships with agents
already working with UK providers.

In the past the British Council India’s relations with agents were poor. The Council’s
hands-off approach to commercial education agents working for UK clients meant that it
was perceived as being disapproving of agents and, since it was unwilling to work with
them, obstructive. In addition, because it provided free education counselling and services
such as fast track visa processing, the agents also viewed the Council as a competitor.

Much of the Council’s initial work with agents in India has therefore been directed towards
changing these negative perceptions and repositioning it in a supporting role to the main
agents that already represent UK providers. This has included:
§ Compiling lists of agents by region including details of all the UK institutions they
   represent.
§ Making the lists of agents available to students in hard copy format as well as on the
   India pages of the Education UK website.
§ Organising training workshops and up-dating seminars for agents. This has included a
   presentation from a visiting UCAS representative and from visa office staff.
§ Accepting advertisements from agents in British Council India education promotion
   publications.
§ Allowing agents to participate in British Education Exhibitions and promotional events
   as representatives of their UK client institutions.
§ Welcoming agents onto Council premises to conduct promotional talks and pre-
   departure briefings on behalf of their UK client institutions. These events are promoted
   in the name of the client UK institutions and bookings have to be made by the UK
   provider.
§ Encouraging agents to send new counselling staff to the Council’s regular group
   counselling sessions to learn about the basics of UK education.
§ Organising a familiarisation trip for a group of agents to visit Scottish institutions
   interested in the India market.




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix III: Agent Market Review: India – page 6
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                        March 2002




Some services are provided free of charge such as inclusion in the agent listing on the
Education UK web site, while some are charged at commercial rates, for example
advertising space in Council publications. Other activities are offered on a partial cost-
recovery basis including the training workshops for example where a small charge is levied
to cover refreshments and when necessary venue hire.

Considering its difficult starting position, the Council in India has made good progress with
its agent development work. It has already built strong relationships with all major agencies
currently working with UK clients. It is clear from the feedback that most agents now have
a positive perception of the Council, value the services that have been introduced and
recognise the benefits of working in partnership with the Council. The agents are very keen
to look for new ways to collaborate to mutual advantage.

7.       Future Council agent development work in India
The Council plans to extend the services it offers to the agents that work with UK providers
including undertaking further training, and providing enhanced information services. Its
major challenge, however, is to generate interest in the UK from new agencies and to ensure
that those agencies can provide quality services for UK providers as well as prospective
students.

As a first step the Council needs to work towards building a database of all agents operating
in India and identifying the reputable operators who are interested in working with UK
providers. Comprehensive details of the best prospective agents can them be incorporated
into the database of information made available to UK providers and a the agents concerned
given access to the full range of British Council agent services.

The required information will need to be collected by means of a combination of:
§ Desk research to identify who the agents are together with their basic contact details.
§ Questionnaire sent to agents to ascertain their interest in working with the UK and to
     collect basic factual information (such as length of time in business, number of staff,
     countries/institutions represented, service charges to students etc.).
§ A programme of visits to agents’ premises by Council staff to assess, among other
     things, the suitability of the office location and infrastructure as well as the level of
     knowledge and professionalism of counselling staff.
Close liaison with the visa offices will be necessary in developing this database to ensure
that any intelligence they have concerning the reliability and reputation of particular agents
is taken into account.

In addition, it is recommended that the Council consider the following to further support its
agent development work:
§ The provision of hard copy Education UK materials to support agent marketing of the
    UK as a study destination.
§ The inclusion of agent profiles on the British Council website with direct link to the
    agents’ own sites. This would be a chargeable service open to any agent listed in the
    information available to students.
§ The development of a password-protected agent network web site providing agents with
    information about the UK, counselling support as well as down-loadable promotional
    materials.

Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix III: Agent Market Review: India – page 7
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                        March 2002




§   The introduction of an Agents newsletter/listserv (as a free or subscription service).
§   Organising agent workshops or fairs alongside in-country promotion events to facilitate
    the introduction of agents to UK providers and vice versa. These would be free to
    agents with the costs incorporated as part of main event or offered for a supplementary
    fee to UK providers as appropriate.
§   Offering agent monitoring services to individual UK providers (mystery shopping,
    monitoring of printed promotional materials including press adverts etc.).

The Council has already established a sound basis for the charges it makes for agent
services. This provides a useful model for other countries. To ensure that agent support
activities can be sustained in the long term, however, it will be necessary to keep under
review the basis and level of any charges made to agents and providers and when necessary
to adjust the charge levels to reflect market conditions.

One of the major challenges facing the BC in India is to help improve the general reputation
of agents amongst potential students and their parents. To contribute to this aim one option
would be to encourage the agents working for the UK to establish a formal association of
their own. Any move to establish a UK only association along the lines of AAERI, however
would not be welcomed by the agents. This is partly because the value of AAERI is in
question and partly because many agents dealing with Australian as well as UK providers
would need to be members of both associations. It is therefore recommend that the Council
should encourage the formation of an All-India agent association or professional body that
would be dedicated to the professional development of education agents, irrespective of the
country focus of the agents’ work. The Council could support such an association through
the provision of training and information services for its members, and offer advice on such
matters as the establishment of membership criteria and a code of good practice. However,
if the association is to be successful, the agents must drive it themselves. The Council
support and encouragement should therefore exclude any direct financial assistance for the
association’s establishment and operation. In addition it would be inappropriate for Council
staff to take on any ex officio executive role in the organisation.


JK
March 2002




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix III: Agent Market Review: India – page 8
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                       March 2002




Appendix IV
Agent Market Review: Japan

1.         Background and legal position
The Japanese market for overseas education is well established and highly competitive. It is
by far the largest international education market in the world and by far the most diverse. In
2000, there were upwards of 65,000 Japanese students enrolled on long term English-
medium HE, FE and school programmes abroad and very large numbers of students
undertaking ELT programmes of various kinds each year. One estimate puts the number of
ELT students at over 600,0001. The market contracted as a result of the Asian economic
recession, with the market for short ELT programmes particularly affected. In spite of the
continuing economic difficulties in Japan, although the ELT market remains depressed, the
market for longer study programmes has shown signs of recovery. The prospects are for
modest growth in overall HE and FE numbers at least into the medium term with numbers
levelling out in the long term. At present the USA dominates the market in all sectors.

Commercial education agents and representatives play a very significant role in the Japanese
market with the majority of students going abroad for study using the services of agents.
For FE, Schools and ELT sector products, agents are the single most important means of
gaining access to the market.

There are estimated to be over 700 agents operating in Japan but their quality is very
variable. The best agents are highly professional and provide excellent service to students
(and their parents) as well as to their client institutions. The less reputable agents provide a
poor service to their clients but there is little evidence of any significant fraudulent activity
to circumvent visa regulations, as occurs in other markets.

There are no specific government regulations for education agents although those who are
also registered as travel agents are covered by government controls that regulate the travel
industry in Japan. In addition in the case of any serious complaint against an agent, students
and their parents would have recourse to seek compensation under Japanese consumer law.
In addition the importance of word of mouth recommendations to any business in Japan
engenders a high level of self-regulation in the system.

There is no formal professional body for education agents in Japan although there is one
agent association established to promote overseas study and professional standards amongst
its members. This is the JAOS (Japan Association Overseas Study)2. Although it has only
23 members they include some of the largest agencies, which have branch offices in all
major cities. JAOS is also well connected internationally and is a member of FELCA




1
    GETIS Education and Training Market Plan for Japan
2
    JAOS web site: www.jaos.gr.jp

Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix IV: Agent Market Review Japan – page 1
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                               March 2002




(Federation of Education and Language Consultants)3 a recently formed international
alliance of 12 national associations from Europe and Asia.




2.         The role of agents in Japan
Although some Japanese students arrange study overseas independently, it is clear that the
vast majority of students and their parents (in the order of 75%4), prefer to use the services
of agents especially when arranging language-study trips abroad. In general agents have a
good reputation in the Japanese market.

Agents in Japan provide counselling advice to potential students and arrange placements at
selected institutions. The majority of education agents are also travel agents with the
remainder typically having close links with travel agencies. This enables them to offer
students a complete service including selection of institution, help with application as well
as full travel and insurance packages. In addition most agents offer follow up services,
sometimes delivered via local representatives based in the destination countries. These
services include liaison with overseas institutions and emergency support. In a market that
operates mainly in Japanese, agents’ services are highly valued, particularly by parents who
want reassurance that their offspring will be looked after while they are abroad come any
eventuality.

Costs in Japan are considerably higher than in other overseas markets with the cost of
advertising and promotion work being particularly expensive. For overseas institutions, a
good local agent can help keep these costs to a minimum. Some agents are part of very
large commercial companies which give them access to excellent publicity outlets. A
number also organise in-country exhibitions for the institutions they represent. In addition
since it takes time and effort to cultivate the contacts necessary for success in the Japanese
education market the appointment of reputable and competent local agents can offer an
effective short-cut to market penetration.

There are many different types of agent in Japan. These range from travel agents that have a
specialist study travel department to agents that concentrate on arranging study tours for
groups from schools, colleges or universities. Business for agents in the later category is in
decline because of a move by a growing number of Japanese institutions to make their own
arrangements for group study tours directly with overseas providers. Some agents specialise
in a particular market segment or sector and these include small highly exclusive agents that
offer a personally tailored service. Provider employed representatives based in Japan, who
work on behalf of one or a small group of institutions, are also relatively common. A
particular feature of the Japan market is the large number of specialist publications
dedicated to study abroad, some of which are published by the major agencies. The
publishing companies that produce the remainder often also offer student placement
services.

3
    FELCA web site: www.felca.org
4
  75% of Japanese students going to Canada are placed through intermediaries (Education Marketing in Japan, 1998,
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada). British Council Japan estimate that a similar proportion
of students going to the UK use agents.

Education Counselling Service                                         Appendix IV: Agent Market Review Japan – page 2
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                       March 2002




Japanese education agents are involved in promoting all types of study abroad programmes,
at all levels. This includes short and long-term overseas ELT as well as school, FE and HE
programmes. A major part of many agents’ work is focused on promoting short-term ELT
products and there are still some that specialise exclusively in this market segment. Since
numbers in this sector have been in decline, increasingly agents are now looking to expand
their product range and to devote more time to the promotion of long-term study options
where the market is still relatively buoyant.

While some agents specialise in promoting study opportunities in one destination country,
including several UK specialists, most agents represent institutions from a number of
countries. The USA tends to provide Japanese agents with the majority of their business
because of its dominant position in the market. There is a very high level of US product
knowledge as a result. In contrast there is only limited UK product knowledge amongst
agents in Japan.


3.         Financial arrangements
The majority of agents in Japan charge service fees to students (parents) in addition to
receiving commission payments from overseas institutions. This is still the case even for
some of the dedicated locally employed institutional representatives. Given that Japanese
customers demand and need high levels of personal service and that operating costs in Japan
are very high the fees can usually be justified.

Sometimes the service fees cover value-added services such as visa facilitation, funds
transfer for payment of tuition fees or travel arrangements and, in the case of schools
placements, for example, guardianship arrangements. Fee levels vary although they usually
fall in the range 50,000 Yen to 100,000 Yen (about £260 to £5305) for ELT and are typically
around 400,000 Yen (about £2,100) for degree course placements. Much higher fees apply
in the case of specialist agents that offer an exclusive tailor-made service. The best agents
publish clear statements of applicable charges, and the charges are usually commensurate
with the level of service they provide. However, as a result of the growing competition
between agents in combination with the recession that has made students more cost-
conscious, service fee levels are being driven down. This is making commission payments
more important and there may be pressure from the agents to increase the rates.

Commission rates paid by overseas institutions to Japanese agents are similar to those
applicable in the other countries surveyed. UK HE providers generally pay 10% of the
tuition fee (first year fee only for longer courses) with rates offered by schools and FE
colleges varying between 10% and 20% of the tuition fee depending on course type,
duration and other factors.




5
    At the current exchange rate of £1=189 Yen (28 March 2002)

Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix IV: Agent Market Review Japan – page 3
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                       March 2002




4.       Alternative agents and market access routes
In Japan, as mentioned above (section 2), there are increasing opportunities to develop
recruitment partnerships with education institutions. Some Japanese universities, and
colleges are keen to develop agency-type arrangements with overseas partners in order to
offer study abroad experience for their students. In effect, the institutions recruit for their
overseas partners from amongst their own student bodies and sometimes more broadly. As
an incentive the overseas partner sets aside funds, equivalent to the commission payments it
would have paid to a commercial agent, for use by the institution. These funds are used in a
number of ways, including the provision of student scholarships, bursaries or additional
social programmes and tours.

As in other countries there are also opportunities in Japan to develop recruitment
partnerships with alumni or, in the case of schools and colleges, parents of current students.



5.       Competitor relationships with agents
Many of the Japanese agents interviewed for this review indicated that with the exception of
private sector providers in the UK they find dealing with US and Australian institutions to
be easier than those in the UK. Faster turnaround of enquires and applications as well as a
more business-like approach to commission payments were the most frequently quoted
reasons. Several agents indicated that were unwilling to work with public sector ELT
providers in the UK after poor experiences in the past. This places the UK at a significant
disadvantage in the Japanese market in comparison to its major competitors.

5.1           USA
The USA has a position of considerable strength in the Japanese education market. The
structure of the Japanese education system was modelled on the USA’s and it has extensive
academic links in all sectors, including well-established alumni networks. The US cultural
influence in Japan is pervasive. This is reflected in the Japanese preference for American
rather than British English and familiarity with US patterns of education and professional
qualifications which make it easy for Japanese students to move between the two systems.

As in other countries there is no generic marketing of US education in Japan and there is
only a limited US education information service. The competition for the UK comes from
the large number of US universities, colleges and language schools working to promote their
programmes via agents and link institutions. The majority of agents work to promote
education in the USA and more than half of their business is directed to the USA. As a
consequence there is a very high level of US product knowledge amongst agents.
Nevertheless, while the USA has many advantages in the Japanese market, there is an
increasing perception in Japan that the USA is a dangerous country in which to live and
study. This perception was heightened in the wake of the events of 11 September. As a
result Japanese customers are increasing willing to consider alternative destinations.




Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix IV: Agent Market Review Japan – page 4
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                                March 2002




5.2           Australia
An active AEI6 operation supports the promotion of Australian education in Japan
concentrating on generic promotion and support of the agent network. It provides only basic
information services to students from its embassy-based office in Tokyo. IDP7 is not
represented in Japan but there is widespread and effective use of agents by Australian
institutions.

AEI, undertakes only limited agent development work such as running occasional training
workshops to highlight changes in the visa application procedures and regulations. AEI
accepts that the use of agents is necessary to gain access to the market in Japan, and advises
Australian providers accordingly. It maintains a list of agents for use by institutions
although it does not offer advice to institutions about the agents it considers to be the most
reputable and/or effective. The information AEI provides students about agents is limited to
the names of those representing particular institutions.

5.3           Canada
Japan is regarded as an important source market for Canada although it has not established a
CECN8 in Japan to undertake proactive generic promotion. Limited information and
marketing support services are provided from the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo by the
Academic Relations Officer. Canadian institutions are encouraged to work with agents as
well as establishing institutional links.

Limited agent support activities are undertaken including running occasional training
workshops. The Embassy does not run any formal recognition scheme or recommend
particular agents. However it has compiled a listing of potential agents for use by Canadian
institutions and this is used for regular mailings of information and generic promotional
materials. The embassy mainly concentrates it cultivation efforts on JAOS members.


6.       E-recruitment
The Internet plays a very active and increasingly important role in the dissemination of
study abroad information to Japanese students but few believe that ‘e-recruitment’ initiatives
will replace agents in the foreseeable future. At present, the evidence points to such
developments complementing face to face agent services in Japan by meeting the need for
much more detailed information in Japanese about study abroad opportunities in the UK
(and competitor countries) in order to generate interest in individual providers. Material
needs to be posted in Japanese to reach students and parents effectively. The conversion of
interest into firm ‘sales’ is likely to continue to depend on ‘off-line’, individually delivered
personal services from agents and the institutions.




6
  Australian Education International, a division of the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and
Training (DEST).
7
  IDP Education Australia, a company wholly owed by Australian universities provides student advisory and recruitment
services on a commission basis in 35 countries to all Australian universities and over 200 colleges, schools and English
language institutes.
8
  Canadian Education Centre Network

Education Counselling Service                                         Appendix IV: Agent Market Review Japan – page 5
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                              March 2002




The e-recruitment initiatives of the major education agents and publishers involved in the
study abroad market are typical of current developments. Their sites are designed primarily
to service general enquires and steer serious customers towards the ‘off-line’ services of the
agents.


7.       Current British Council work with agents in Japan
The British Council in Japan is keen to build stronger relations with agents and to encourage
them to work on behalf of UK providers. Specifically it aims to increase the number and
effectiveness of these agents by increasing their UK product knowledge. The Council
recognised however, that before beginning to interest a wider network of agents it would be
necessary to first build effective working relationships with agents already working with UK
providers.

In the past the British Council in Japan took a hands-off approach to commercial education
agents working for UK clients. This has led to a perception by some agents that the Council
disapproves of their work and is generally unsupportive. In addition, because it provides
free education counselling as well as services such as BUPS9 and ran an ELT placement
scheme on a pilot basis in the past, some agents also view the Council as a competitor.

Specific agent development activities in Japan have included:
§ The compilation of an agents listing by region including contact details and their sector
   specialisation’s (ELT, FE, HE or schools) of all agents currently known to be working
   on behalf of UK providers.
§ Inclusion of the agent list on GETIS for access by UK providers.
§ Participating in promotional events organised by agents as seminar speakers, exhibitors
   etc.
§ Running occasional briefing and updating seminars for interested agents. Invitations are
   sent to all agents known to be working with UK providers.
§ Running an annual series of seminars to promote schools education in the UK in
   collaboration with a specialist schools agent. The agent pays hire charges for the use of
   Council premises for these events as well as bearing most of the costs of advertising and
   promotion.
§ The provision of hard copy Education UK materials to selected agents to support their
   marketing of the UK as a study destination.
§ Accepting advertisements from agents in British Council Japan education promotion
   publications.

At present however, students using the Council’s Education Counselling service that express
an interest in a particular institution are not generally given the details of the relevant
agent(s) although they are referred to Japan-based institutional representatives.




9
  The British Universities Placement Scheme, run by the British Council’s Direct English Teaching operation. This is an
English language and study skills training programme to prepare students for study in the UK and includes assistance to
gain a UK course placement.

Education Counselling Service                                        Appendix IV: Agent Market Review Japan – page 6
Education UK Campaigns and Strategic Initiatives: Agent Strategy                                       March 2002




8.       Future Council agent development work in Japan
As a result of its work so far the British Council is now viewed more positively by agents in
Japan. However it is clear that there is some way to go before the Council is regarded
amongst agents as a valued marketing partner. The Council in Japan plans to move further
in this direction by extending its range of professional development activities for agents. In
particular, plans are in hand to providing enhanced UK information services and training
including:
§ The introduction of an agents’ newsletter/listserv.
§ The establishment of a regular programme of updating and briefing seminars for agents.

In addition it is recommended that the Council consider the following to further support its
agent development work:

§    Extending the current regional agent listing to provide UK institutions with more
     detailed background information about all major agents, including the names of agents’
     current UK clients, details of other countries represented, approximate number of
     placements to the UK and elsewhere.
§    Providing information for students to direct them to the agents that can help arrange
     study abroad in the UK. This includes details of the UK institutions represented by each
     agent as well an indication of whether the agent can help students to apply to any UK
     institution or only those with which it has a commission agreement.
§    Welcoming more agents onto Council premises to conduct promotional talks and pre-
     departure briefings on behalf of their UK client institutions or as part of the Council’s
     regular programme of specialist promotional talks. These events could be promoted in
     the name of the client UK institutions and either they or the agent could make bookings.
§    The inclusion of agent profiles on the British Council website with direct links to agents’
     own sites. This would be a chargeable service open to any agent listed in the
     information available to students.
§    The development of an agent network web site providing agents with information about
     the UK, counselling support as well as down-loadable promotional materials.
§    Undertaking a market survey to identify potential ‘alternative’ agents for UK providers.
     (I.e. Japanese education institutions who may be interested in fostering links with UK
     providers for the purpose of directing students to them under a similar arrangement to
     those already established with some UK providers [see section 4]. As a starting point
     the Council can use its existing database of Japanese institutions interested in fostering
     general links with UK providers.)
§    Offering agent monitoring services to individual UK providers (mystery shopping,
     collection & translation of printed adverts etc.)

In a mature market such as Japan where agents activities are well-developed, the provision
of free or heavily subsidised agent services would be difficult to justify. The commercial
value of the services that the British Council can provide should be easy to establish and
charges for agent services should be made accordingly. To ensure that agent support
activities can be sustained in Japan in the long term it will be necessary to keep the basis of
charges to agents and providers under review.

JK
March 2002

Education Counselling Service                                      Appendix IV: Agent Market Review Japan – page 7

								
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